Sunday, 25 March 2018 : Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we begin the celebration of the most important events in our faith, that is the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, His final earthly mission, to complete everything that the Lord has planned for mankind, the salvation of us all, by the suffering and the death of the Messiah, Our Lord Jesus, on the cross at Calvary.

This Holy Week of important events of our faith begins today with the Palm Sunday, celebrating the moment when the Lord Jesus entered in glory into the Holy City of Jerusalem on a donkey, as we heard just earlier in our Gospel passage at the start of today’s celebration of the Holy Mass. The people welcomed the Lord Jesus and hailed Him as the Messiah and King Who was to come to His city in glory, saying loudly, “Hosanna in the highest! Hosanna to the Son of David!”

They waved palm branches and placed their cloaks and clothes in front of Jesus, welcoming Him as if He is the King of Israel. Indeed, He is King and Lord of all, and among the people at that time, as mentioned later by the disciples who walked to Emmaus just after Jesus’ death that they had hoped that He was the One Who would have restored the Kingdom of Israel.

Yet, it was the very same people who would shout loudly in just a matter of a few days, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” The same people who cheered and welcomed the Lord with much energy and spirit, were the same ones who would reject Him and call for His death, death at the hands of the Romans and a most painful death on the cross. How could this have happened, brothers and sisters in Christ?

The Scripture readings today show the nature of Our Lord’s plan of salvation, that He must suffer at the hands of His enemies and bear the cross on His own accord towards death and punishment for the crimes and sins that He Himself did not commit. But all of these are ultimately meant for our own good, for our salvation and liberation from the bondage to all of our sins.

The cross of Christ is the cross of our sins and faults, all of our shortcomings and rebellious attitudes against God. When the Lord Jesus bore that cross, He did not just bear the physical weight of the wooden cross, which according to historical data and research was already quite formidable in itself, but even more so, it was the massive and unimaginable burden of the combined weight of our sins, our shortcomings, our trespasses, our faults and all other things that should have been ours to bear.

All of us, each one of us are sinners, brothers and sisters in Christ. All of us have disobeyed God in one way or another, in small sin or in major sin. And each and everyone of us should have endured the consequences for all these sins and faults we have with us. What is the punishment of sin? Death, and also separation from God and eternal damnation in hell. That is what we should have suffered.

But God, Who loves each and every one of us, His beloved children so greatly, did not want this fate to befall us, as ultimately, as mentioned, He loved us all greatly, though not our sins and disobedience that creates those sins. Thus, He promised us all since the beginning, that He will save us, by the sending of a Saviour, or Messiah, He Who would reconcile all mankind, God’s beloved people with Him.

All of these were fulfilled in Jesus Christ, Whom the prophet Isaiah prophesied in the first reading we heard today, about the Servant of God Who would suffer, be rejected and be persecuted for doing God’s work. The prophet Isaiah prophesied about the Suffering Messiah Who would suffer, and it was this suffering that the prophet was speaking about. Christ was obedient that He took up His cross for our sake, for the salvation of His own beloved people, that because He died, we may live.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we enter into this most important moment in our liturgical year, the Holy Week, how are we preparing ourselves that we may worthily commemorate the events that will come in a few days’ time? This is where we need to spend time to reflect on our own lives, on our actions and how we have lived our lives thus far. Have we been living our lives in disobedience and sin, and have we refused God’s rich offer of mercy and forgiveness?

We should use this time and the opportunity given to us, to reflect on our lives and on our actions. Have we had a good relationship with God? And indeed, how much time in a day that we actually spend with Him? Or have we instead forgotten about Him in the midst of our busy schedules, in the midst of our pursuit for power, prestige, honour, worldly comfort, money, and many other worldly desires we have?

Instead of spending so much of our time in these ultimately meaningless pursuit, shall we then turn ourselves towards God and learn to put our trust in Him? Shall we spend more time with the Lord Who loves us so much that He gave us His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, to be our Saviour? Remember, brothers and sisters, that if not for the cross of Christ, all of us would have lived our lives with no meaning, as everything would have ended in the eternity in hell.

But because of Christ, and His loving sacrifice on the cross, by His willingness to endure the effects and the consequences of our sins, all of our punishments, all of us who believe in Him and who are willing to put our trust in Him will receive pardon from our sins and justification before God, that we who were once unworthy because of our sins, will be worthy of God’s grace, and be able to receive the eternal life He has promised to us all.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let this day be a reminder for us all, that whenever we sin, we inflict the wounds and the pain on Our Lord Jesus, Who willingly bore those sins with Him on the cross. Let us all remember that we should turn away from sin, repent from all of our past wickedness, and ultimately, return to the Lord with an open mind and heart, that all of us will be reconciled completely with Him, and receive eternal life from Him.

May God be with us all throughout this Holy Week, and may He continue to guide us and bless us all the days of our life. Amen.

Sunday, 25 March 2018 : Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion (Passion Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 14 : 1 – Mark 15 : 47

It was now two days before the Feast of the Passover and Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the teachers of the Law were looking for a way to arrest Jesus on a false charge, and put Him to death; but they said, “Not during the Festival, for there might be trouble among the people.”

Jesus was in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper. As He was reclining at dinner, a woman entered carrying an alabaster jar of expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfumed oil on Jesus’ head. Then some of them became angry and said, “What a useless waste of perfume. It could have been sold for more than three hundred silver coins and the money given to the poor.” And they criticised her.

But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why are you troubling her? What she has just done for Me is a very charitable work. At any time you can help the poor, for you always have them with you; but you will not have Me forever. This woman did what she had to do : she anointed My Body for burial, before I die. Truly, I say to you, wherever the Good News is proclaimed, and this will be throughout the world, what she has done will be told in praise of her.”

Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went off to the chief priests, in order to betray Jesus to them. On hearing him, they were excited and promised to give him money. So Judas started planning the best way to hand Jesus over to them.

On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the day when the Passover Lamb was killed, disciples asked Him, “Where would you have us to go to prepare the Passover meal for You?” So Jesus sent two of His disciples with these instructions, “Go into the city, and there, a man will come to you carrying a jar of water.”

“Follow him to the house he enters and say to the owner, ‘The Master says, Where is the room where I may eat the Passover meal with My disciples?’ Then He will show you a large room upstairs, already arranged and furnished. There, you will prepare for us.”

The disciples went off. When they reached the city, they found everything just as Jesus had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal. When it was evening, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. While they were at table eating, Jesus said, “Truly, I tell you, one of you will betray Me, one who shares My meal.”

They were deeply distressed at hearing this and asked Him, one after the other, “You do not mean me, do You?” And Jesus answered, “It is one of you Twelve, one who dips his bread in the dish with Me. The Son of Man is going as the Scriptures say He will. But alas for that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed; better for him if he had never been born.”

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed it and broke it, and gave it to them. And He said, “Take this. It is My Body.” Then He took a cup, and after He had given thanks, He passed it to them and they all drank from it. And He said, “This is My Blood, the Blood of the Covenant, poured out for many. Truly, I say to you, I will not taste the fruit of the vine again, until that day when I drink the new wine in the kingdom of God.”

After singing psalms of praise, they went out to the Mount of Olives. And Jesus said to them, “All of you will be dismayed and fall away; for the Scripture says : I will strike the Shepherd and the sheep will be scattered. But after I am raised, I will go to Galilee ahead of you.”

Then Peter said to Him, “Even though all the others fall away, I will not.” And Jesus replied, “Truly I say to you, today, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” But Peter insisted, “Though I have to die with You, I will never deny You.” And all of them said the same.

They came to a place which is called Gethsemane; and Jesus said to His disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” But He took Peter, James and John along with Him, and, becoming filled with fear and distress, He said to them, “My soul is full of sorrow, even to death. Remain here and stay awake.”

Then He went a little further on and fell on the ground, praying that, if possible, this hour might pass Him by. Jesus said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me. Yet, not what I want, but what You want.” Then He came and found them asleep; and He said to Peter, “Simon, are you sleeping? Could you not stay awake for one hour? Stay awake and pray, all of you, so that you may not slip into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the body is weak.”

And, going away, He prayed, saying the same words. When He came back to the disciples, He found them asleep again. They could not keep their eyes open; and they did not know what to say to Him. When He came back the third time, He said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? It is all over, the time has come : the Son of Man is now given into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us go! Look : the one who betrays Me is approaching.”

While Jesus was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, came up. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, who had been sent by the chief priests, the teachers of the Law and the elders. The traitor had arranged a signal for them, “The One I kiss, He is the Man. Arrest Him, and take Him away under guard.”

So, when He came, He went directly to Jesus, and said, “Master! Master!” and kissed Him. Then they seized Jesus and arrested Him. One of the bystanders drew his sword and struck out at the High Priest’s servant, cutting off his ear. Jesus turned to them and said, “So, you have set out against a robber! Did you need swords and clubs to arrest Me? Day after day, I was among you, teaching in the Temple, and you did not arrest Me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.”

Then they all deserted Him and fled. A young man, covered by nothing but a linen cloth, followed Jesus. When they took hold of him, he left the cloth in their hands and fled away naked. They led Jesus to the High Priest; and all the chief priests assembled, with the elders and the teachers of the Law. Peter had followed Him at a distance; and went right into the courtyard of the High Priest, where he sat with the guards, warming himself at the fire.

Now the chief priests and the whole Council tried to find some evidence against Jesus so that they might put Him to death; but they were unable to find anything. Even though many came up to speak falsely against Him, their evidence did not agree. At last, some stood up and gave this false witness : “We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this Temple made by human hands, and, in three days, I will build another, not made by human hands.” But even so, their evidence did not agree.

The High Priest then stood up in the midst of them and asked Jesus, “Have You no answer at all? What about this evidence against You?” But Jesus was silent and made no reply. The High Priest put a second question to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” Then Jesus answered, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Most Powerful, and coming with the clouds of heaven around Him.”

Then the High Priest, tearing his garments to show his horror, said, “What more evidence do we need? You have just heard His blasphemous words. What is your decision?” They all condemned Jesus, saying, “He must die.” Some of them began to spit on Jesus; and, blindfolding Him, they struck Him and said, “Play the prophet!” And the guards set upon Him with blows.

While Peter was below, in the courtyard, a servant girl of the High Priest came by. Noticing Peter beside the fire, she looked straight at him and said, “You also were with Jesus, the Nazarene.” But he denied it, “I do not know or understand what you are talking about.” And he went out through the gateway, and a cock crowed.

The servant girl saw him there and told the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” But Peter denied it again. After a little while, those standing nearby said to Peter, “Of course you are one of them; you are a Galilean, are you not?” And Peter began to justify himself with curses and oaths, “I do not know the Man you are talking about.”

Just then a cock crowed a second time, and Peter remembered what Jesus had said to him, “Before the cock crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” And he broke down and wept.

Early in the morning, the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the Law (that is, the whole Council or Sanhedrin) had their plan ready. They put Jesus in chains, led Him away and handed Him over to Pilate. Pilate asked Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “You say so.” As the chief priests accused Jesus of many things, Pilate asked Him again, “Have You no answer at all? See how many charges they bring against You.”

But Jesus gave no further answers, much to Pilate’s surprise. At every Passover festival, Pilate used to free any prisoner the people asked for. Now there was a man called Barabbas, jailed with the rioters who had committed murder in the uprising. When the crowd went up to ask Pilate the usual favour, he said to them, “Do you want me to set free the King of the Jews?” for he realised that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him out of envy.

But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to ask, instead, for the release of Barabbas. Pilate replied, “And what shall I do with the Man you call King of the Jews?” The crowd shouted back, “Crucify Him!” Pilate asked, “What evil has He done?” But they shouted the louder, “Crucify Him!”

As Pilate wanted to please the people, He freed Barabbas, and, having had Jesus flogged, Pilate handed Him over to be crucified. The soldiers took Him inside the courtyard, known as the Praetorium, and called the rest of their companions. They clothed Him in a purple cloak, and twisting a crown of thorns, they forced it onto His head. Then they began saluting Him, “Long life to the King of the Jews!” With a stick they gave Him blows on the head and spat on Him; then they knelt down, pretending to worship Him.

When they had finished mocking Him, they pulled off the purple cloak and put His own clothes on Him. The soldiers led Him out of the city to crucify Him. On the way, they met Simon of Cyrene, father of Alexander and Rufus, who was coming in from the country; and forced him to carry the cross of Jesus. When they had led Him to the place called Golgotha, which means the Skull, they offered Him wine mixed with myrrh, but He would not take it.

Then they nailed Him to the cross, and divided His clothes among themselves, casting lots to decide what every man should take. It was about nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified Him. The statements of His offence was displayed above His head, and it read, “The King of the Jews.” They also crucified two robbers with Him, one on His right and one on His left. And the Scripture was fulfilled which says : ‘And with lawless ones He was numbered.’

People passing by laughed at Him, shook their heads and jeered, “Aha! So, You are able to tear down the Temple and build it up in three days? Save Yourself now, and come down from the cross!” In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the Law mocked Him, saying to one another, “The Man Who saved others cannot save Himself. Let us see the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from His cross, and then we will believe in Him.” Even the men who were crucified with Jesus insulted Him.

When noon came, darkness fell over the whole land and lasted until three o’clock; and at three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lamma sabachthani?” which means, “My God, My God, why have You deserted Me?” As soon as they heard these words, some of the bystanders said, “Listen! He is calling for Elijah.” And one of them went quickly to fill a sponge with bitter wine, and putting it on a reed, gave it to Him to drink, saying, “Now let us see whether Elijah comes to take Him down.”

But Jesus uttered a loud cry and gave up His Spirit. And immediately, the curtain that enclosed the Temple Sanctuary was torn in two, from top to bottom. The captain, who was standing in front of Him, saw how Jesus died and heard the cry He gave; and he said, “Truly, this Man was the Son of God.”

There were also some women watching from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome, who had followed Jesus when He was in Galilee and saw to His needs. There were also others who had come up with Him to Jerusalem.

It was now evening, and, as it was Preparation Day, that is the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea boldly went to Pilate and asked for the Body of Jesus. Joseph was a respected member of the Council, who was, himself, waiting for the kingdom of God. Pilate was surprised that Jesus should have died so soon; so he summoned the captain and inquired if Jesus was already dead. After hearing the captain, he let Joseph have the Body.

Joseph took it down and wrapped it in the linen sheet he had brought. He laid the Body in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock, and rolled a stone across the entrance to the tomb. Now Mary of Magdala and Mary the mother of Joses took note of where the Body had been laid.

Alternative reading

Mark 15 : 1-39

Early in the morning, the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the Law (that is, the whole Council or Sanhedrin) had their plan ready. They put Jesus in chains, led Him away and handed Him over to Pilate. Pilate asked Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “You say so.” As the chief priests accused Jesus of many things, Pilate asked Him again, “Have You no answer at all? See how many charges they bring against You.”

But Jesus gave no further answers, much to Pilate’s surprise. At every Passover festival, Pilate used to free any prisoner the people asked for. Now there was a man called Barabbas, jailed with the rioters who had committed murder in the uprising. When the crowd went up to ask Pilate the usual favour, he said to them, “Do you want me to set free the King of the Jews?” for he realised that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him out of envy.

But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to ask, instead, for the release of Barabbas. Pilate replied, “And what shall I do with the Man you call King of the Jews?” The crowd shouted back, “Crucify Him!” Pilate asked, “What evil has He done?” But they shouted the louder, “Crucify Him!”

As Pilate wanted to please the people, He freed Barabbas, and, having had Jesus flogged, Pilate handed Him over to be crucified. The soldiers took Him inside the courtyard, known as the Praetorium, and called the rest of their companions. They clothed Him in a purple cloak, and twisting a crown of thorns, they forced it onto His head. Then they began saluting Him, “Long life to the King of the Jews!” With a stick they gave Him blows on the head and spat on Him; then they knelt down, pretending to worship Him.

When they had finished mocking Him, they pulled off the purple cloak and put His own clothes on Him. The soldiers led Him out of the city to crucify Him. On the way, they met Simon of Cyrene, father of Alexander and Rufus, who was coming in from the country; and forced him to carry the cross of Jesus. When they had led Him to the place called Golgotha, which means the Skull, they offered Him wine mixed with myrrh, but He would not take it.

Then they nailed Him to the cross, and divided His clothes among themselves, casting lots to decide what every man should take. It was about nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified Him. The statements of His offence was displayed above His head, and it read, “The King of the Jews.” They also crucified two robbers with Him, one on His right and one on His left. And the Scripture was fulfilled which says : ‘And with lawless ones He was numbered.’

People passing by laughed at Him, shook their heads and jeered, “Aha! So, You are able to tear down the Temple and build it up in three days? Save Yourself now, and come down from the cross!” In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the Law mocked Him, saying to one another, “The Man Who saved others cannot save Himself. Let us see the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from His cross, and then we will believe in Him.” Even the men who were crucified with Jesus insulted Him.

When noon came, darkness fell over the whole land and lasted until three o’clock; and at three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lamma sabachthani?” which means, “My God, My God, why have You deserted Me?” As soon as they heard these words, some of the bystanders said, “Listen! He is calling for Elijah.” And one of them went quickly to fill a sponge with bitter wine, and putting it on a reed, gave it to Him to drink, saying, “Now let us see whether Elijah comes to take Him down.”

But Jesus uttered a loud cry and gave up His Spirit. And immediately, the curtain that enclosed the Temple Sanctuary was torn in two, from top to bottom. The captain, who was standing in front of Him, saw how Jesus died and heard the cry He gave; and he said, “Truly, this Man was the Son of God.”

Sunday, 25 March 2018 : Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Philippians 2 : 6-11

Though He was in the form of God, He did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking on the nature of a servant, made in human likeness, and in His appearance found as a Man.

He humbled Himself by being obedient to death, death on the cross. That is why God exalted Him and gave Him the Name which outshines all names, so that at the Name of Jesus all knees should bend in heaven, on earth and among the dead, and all tongues proclaim that Christ Jesus is the Lord to the glory of God the Father.

Sunday, 25 March 2018 : Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 21 : 8-9, 17-18a, 19-20, 23-24

All who see Me make a jest of Me; they sneer and shake their heads. “He put His trust in the Lord, let the Lord rescue Him! If the Lord is His friend, let Him help Him!”

Round about Me are vicious dogs, villainous rogues encircling Me. They have tied up My hands and feet. They can count all My bones.

Dividing My garments among them and casting lots for My raiment. O Lord, be not far from Me! O My strength, come quickly to My help.

I will proclaim Your Name to My brothers. I will praise You in the assembly. “All you who fear the Lord, praise Him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify Him! All you sons of Israel, revere Him!

Sunday, 25 March 2018 : Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Isaiah 50 : 4-7

The Lord YHVH has taught Me so I speak as His disciple and I know how to sustain the weary. Morning after morning He wakes Me up to hear, to listen like a disciple. The Lord YHVH has opened My ear. I have not rebelled, nor have I withdrawn.

I offered My back to those who strike Me, My cheeks to those who pulled My beard; neither did I shield My face from blows, spittle and disgrace. I have not despaired, for the Lord YHVH comes to My help. So, like a flint I set My face, knowing that I will not be disgraced.

Sunday, 25 March 2018 : Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 11 : 1-10

At that time, when Jesus and His disciples drew near to Jerusalem and arrived at Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of His disciples with these instructions, “Go to the village ahead of you and, as you enter it, you will find there a colt tied up that no one has ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone says to you, ‘What are you doing?’ give this answer, ‘The Lord needs it, but He will send it back immediately.”

They went off and found the colt, out in the street, tied at the door. As they were untying it, some of the bystander asked, “Why are you untying that colt?” They answered as Jesus had told them, and the people allowed them to continue. They brought the colt to Jesus, threw their cloaks on its back, and Jesus sat upon it. Many people also spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread leafy branches from the fields.

Then the people who walked ahead, and those who followed behind Jesus, began to shout, “Hosannah! Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David, which comes! Hosannah in the highest!”

Alternative reading

John 12 : 12-16

At that time, the next day, many people who had come for the festival heard that Jesus was to enter Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him. And they cried out, “Hosanna! Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel!”

Jesus found a donkey and sat upon it, as Scripture says : ‘Do not fear, city of Zion! See, your King is coming, sitting on the colt of a donkey!’ The disciples were not aware of this at first, but after Jesus was glorified, they realised that this had been written about Him, and that this was what had happened to Him.

Sunday, 18 March 2018 : Fifth Sunday of Lent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, which is the fifth and the last one in the season of Lent before the beginning of the Holy Week, we listened to the words of the Scripture telling us about the coming of a new Covenant forged between God and His people, which would come to be realised during the events of the Passion of Our Lord that we commemorate in this upcoming Holy Week.

For the past few weeks, we have been discussing about the Covenants that God had made with His people, which then ended up being broken by the same people with whom He had made those Covenants with. Now, what is a Covenant in the first place? A Covenant is not just like any promises or pacts, even though it may sound very similar to a promise or a pact between peoples. A Covenant is a very formal agreement and contract between two parties, where each party is expected to obey to certain rules of the Covenant.

And it is God Who made His Covenants with us, with God as one party of the Covenant, and us mankind as the other party of the Covenant. But while God has always been faithful to His part in the Covenants He made, it has always been us who failed to honour our part of the Covenant. The descendants of Adam, Noah, Abraham, David and all those with whom God made His Covenants had sinned, by disobeying His laws, worshipping pagan idols and committing wicked acts such as murder, adultery and simony and many more.

A prominent part of the Covenant in the past during the time of the Old Testament was the sacrifice of animals such as lambs or bulls or pigeons, which blood was then divided into half, half poured onto the altar while the other half is sprinkled onto the people as a sign of the renewal of the Covenant. They were always conducted in the most formal and solemn circumstances to highlight just how serious God is at establishing a loving relationship with us.

Whenever we disobey God and do what is wicked and against His ways, we sin before Him, and by that sin, we have been disgraced and sundered from God’s love. And therefore we break the Covenant that God had made with us by our sins. When that happened in the past, the people who sinned must come to a priest, who would then sacrifice the animals brought onto the Temple, and sprinkle the blood on the sinner as a sign of God’s forgiveness.

Essentially, this is a very symbolic gesture of God’s forgiveness of our sins, which is then linked to the renewal of the Covenant He had established with us. But as we can see, mankind is a very stubborn race of people, who often failed to resist the temptation to sin, and we continue to do what we prefer to do rather than to obey the ways and the laws of the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have to realise the extent of the love which God has shown to us all, to each and every one of us, from the least among us to the greatest and the mightiest among us. All of us are equally loved by God, and none of us can say that God does not love us or hate us. He loves each and every one of us for who we are, His beloved children and creation, but it was our sins that He despised. It was our sins which come in between us from our loving relationship with God.

It was never in God’s intention to punish us or to make our lives miserable. If souls fell and ended up in hell, in the state of eternal despair and hopelessness, that was not God’s doing, but the mistakes committed by the fallen beings themselves. God has always offered His love, forgiveness and compassion freely without the need for us to pay for them. But it is us mankind who have willingly refused to accept God’s offer of mercy, love and compassion.

For the love of worldly things, our greed and ambition, our ego and desires, we have chosen to walk in our own path, instead of obeying and following God. We ended up disobeying God and living in sin, and that is why many of us mankind, throughout the ages are truly in a sad state, defiled and corrupted by our sins and wickedness. Had the Lord not done anything to help us, hell would have been full with all of us and our ancestors.

No, that is not what God wanted to happen, and that is why, He resolved to end the continuing cycle of sin and damnation once and for all, by forging with us a renewed Covenant, the greatest among all the Covenants, one that will never end and will never be broken, because it is sealed not with any animal sacrifices or any forms of animal blood, but by the most precious Blood of all, the Blood of Our Lord, God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, it was by His ultimate and most loving sacrifice on the cross, that Jesus Christ Our Lord sealed the New Covenant which He made with us all, as the Mediator of that New Covenant, between God and mankind, His beloved ones. Christ’s loving sacrifice and His voluntary shedding of His Blood from the cross, on the perfect altar that is Calvary, marks the beginning of a new era, of reconciliation between God and His people, all of us.

Before Christ, we mankind and Our Lord have been separated because of sin, such that in between us and Him there is an uncrossable chasm and sundering, that prevented us from being able to be with Our God. Our sins should have merited us eternal damnation and suffering in hell, separated forever from God. However, as mentioned, God did not want that to happen to us, because of His love, and thus, He gave us Christ as our Saviour, that all of us who believe in Him will be saved.

Through Christ, Who is both God and Man, all of us find a new hope, by the bridge that Christ Himself had built through His cross, to bring man back to the loving embrace of their Creator. This new and everlasting Covenant will never be broken, for God Himself guaranteed it by His own Most Precious Blood, sealed for all eternity. Now, it is the matter of whether we are willing to be a part of that Covenant or not.

God has always given us the freedom to choose whether we want to obey Him or not. However, the consequences of our choice is ours alone to bear. If we decide to follow the examples of the Israelites of the past, who disobeyed God and preferred to live in sin, enjoying all the good fruits and the desires of this world, then we have to know that we have chosen all these over all that God has offered us.

But if we choose to be faithful to Him and partake in the Covenant He had made with us through Christ, then we can call ourselves as Christians, in body, heart, mind and spirit. Yet, we cannot be half-hearted in our faith and commitment, or else, it is likely that we will be tempted and fall. Being a true Christian requires effort and commitment from us, as the Lord Himself said, that in order for us to follow Him, we must take up our crosses and follow Him.

Therefore brothers and sisters in Christ, reflecting and remembering upon all the good things that God had done for us, His insistent love and compassion for us, and all that He had given us, even to the point of giving us His own beloved Son, to be our Saviour and to die for us on the cross for our salvation, just so that He can bond us all to a new and everlasting Covenant that superseded all previous ones, then we should indeed think of how we can be part of this wonderful Covenant.

As we approach the Holy Week beginning next Sunday with the Palm Sunday, let us recall the Passion of Our Lord Jesus, Who took up that cross and suffered for us, so that by gathering all of our sins to Himself, He might redeem all of us, His beloved people. Let us all shun all of our past sins and wickedness, all the things we have done in disobedience against God, and walk from now on in His ways.

Let us now be an active partner of the Lord in the Covenant He made with us, by devoting ourselves, our time, our effort, our actions and our words for the greater glory of God. And how do we do this? First of all, we need to put God as the priority in our lives, by obeying His laws and commandments, and by doing our actions with our love for God in mind. That means, we should not treat our brothers and sisters with contempt or hatred, or selfishly trying to preserve our own needs and attain our desires over the sufferings of others.

Let us be more charitable in all of our dealings, in our every actions and deeds. Let us all have pity and compassion on those who are not as fortunate as us in our midst, and do whatever we can to help, or to alleviate their sufferings, or to share our joy with them. This is how we show others the same love that God has shown us, a selfless and compassionate love.

Let us also draw closer to God, by deepening our relationship with Him through prayer, that in everything we do, we do it prayerfully, knowing that God is with us, and that we exist to be with God, to love Him and to serve Him with love. Let us all show our commitment to Him by devoting our lives more wholeheartedly to Him. May all of us find our way to reach God’s saving grace, and receive the gift of eternal life and glory, as part of the Covenant He has established with us.

May all of us be more committed to live up to the Covenant God made with us, by proactively seeking to be righteous and just in His presence, by our compassion to the poor and to the needy around us, by listening to the pleas of the hungry and by showing comfort and love for the lonely and for those who were without love. May God be with all of our actions and endeavours, and may He bring us ever closer to Him, and bless us all of our days. Amen.